THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 15 August ~

Are you all set for the start of best league in the world? You might not be fully prepared because La Liga doesn't begin for another three weeks. Meanwhile, the Premier League gets underway today. After two months of increasingly frenzied build-up, the excitement has proved almost too much for some. Such as the Sun's chief sports writer Steven Howard who has had the temerity to adapt the Book of Revelations in his latest column, according to which there are now Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse with a moody Welshman saddled up alongside the Big Four bosses.

The suggestion is that there has never been so much pressure placed on the managers of the top clubs, a theme that has picked up in several other pre-season previews. You know the drill: Man Utd won't score nearly as many goals without Cristiano Ronaldo, Alberto Aquilani is unlikely to be an adequate replacement for Xabi Alonso in Liverpool's midfield, Arsenal's central defenders aren't good enough for a title-chasing team, Chelsea have a new manager who will take time to adapt, as was the case with Big Phil who was turfed out after four months. The pressure that Mark Hughes will be under from the outset is illustrated by the fact that he is 5/2 favourite to be the first manager sacked.

Second in the betting is Paul Hart who doesn't yet know who he will be working for with Sulaiman al-Fahim's takeover of Portsmouth still to be completed. Dr al-Fahim might still be working for Manchester City, owned by his compatriots from Abu Dhabi, had he not bragged rather too incautiously about whom they intended to buy when they took charge at Eastlands a year ago. While City's owners subsequently failed to buy Kaka and more recently Samuel Eto'o, they have nonetheless spent £217 million, which has included bringing in players from their principal rivals for Champions League qualification, Arsenal, as well as Carlos Tevez from Man Utd.

"A lot of people want us to succeed and just as many want us to fail," said Hughes this week. In fact most supporters of teams outside the top four probably want City to do both. If they qualify for the Champions League this season, that will cause a big financial crisis for whichever team they displace – which would be greatly entertaining for fans of the teams currently cast as makeweights. Any lasting disruption for the big four might also create openings for other clubs.

City's owners will be gone if they don't get what they think they have paid for in a couple of years, after which the club might collapse under the weight of all the money they owe to players they have under contract. Although it's possible they will simply be passed on to another billionaire royal family who want to buy in to the global glamour of the Premier League. But by then the top four will also have Notts County to contend with.

Comments (4)
Comment by JeremyP99 2009-08-15 11:49:34

"City's owners will be gone if they don't get what they think they have paid for in a couple of years, after which the club might collapse under the weight of all the money they owe to players they have under contract."

Rubbish. These guys are in for the long haul - you really need NOT to group them with get rich quick artists like the Glazers & Hick & Gillet.

This is sloppy journalism. Why not go to the City site, and dig out the recent interview with Sheikh Mansour, which gives the lie to the shoddy article.

Comment by ooh aah 2009-08-16 04:24:31

"This is sloppy journalism."

Whereas simply regurgitating city press releases would be the height of journalistic integrity.

Comment by ian.64 2009-08-17 08:27:40

"A lot of people want us to succeed and just as many want us to fail," said Hughes this week."

Had not City's phalanx of huge-mouthed self-promoters, led by the dreadful Garry Cook, gone out to spend a nation's worth of cash on the world's best in the same way that morons who go out and load up supermarket trolleys to breaking point with Mother's Pride at the merest sniff of the words 'bread shortage', and had not some City fans suddenly transformed from considered, philosphical types to triumphal, cackling, Loadsamoney stereotypes who now see every club supporter as enemies who are just 'jealous' of their wealth, then perhaps this new Manchester City that we are supposed to back and encourage to break that Top Four monopoly would be better received and Mark Hughes wouldn't have that burden on his shoulders.

Thing is, as soon as wealth is introduced into a club, then, it's true, jealousy will, for some, be the order of the day. But it also doesn't help that such a metamorphosis is made less palatable by the boorish glee and flatulent overbearing displayed by City types within and outside the club from the off. As soon as the cash flowed, then mouths opened large and loud telling us that we would be steamrollered by these Premiership-title-winners-elect. Any considered voices who liked the appearance of instant wealth, but knew that success would be built rather than bought, were lost in the hubbub of Dolby Stereo smugness.

When that happens, what's to like?

Comment by CarsmileSteve 2009-08-20 23:09:21

If you're going to quote from the book of revelation
Don't go calling it the book of revelationS
There's no "s" in the book of revelation
As laid down to St John the devine

See also Mary Hopkin
She must dispair

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